When the time comes I will describe that wondrous moonlit night upon the great lake when a young ichthyosaurus--a strange creature, half seal
, half fish, to look at, with bone-covered eyes on each side of his snout, and a third eye fixed upon the top of his head--was entangled in an Indian net, and nearly upset our canoe before we towed it ashore; the same night that a green water-snake shot out from the rushes and carried off in its coils the steersman of Challenger's canoe.
The fragment of an official seal from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), known as the siyin half seal (Fig.
1662-1692) (13) and Gao Shiqi (1645-1704) observed that several artworks in their collections bore the same half seal.
In accordance with Ming-Qing practice, Gu read the siyin half seal as jicha siyin, but did not specify the date or source of the seal.
The two characters si and yin of the half seal on art (hereafter our siyin seal) stylistically resemble those used by offices with equivalent hierarchical status, but deviate from prior Song, Jurchen Jim (1115-1234), and Yuan dynasty seals.
The consistent composition of these si-level seals is reflected in our siyin half seal.
Several late Ming and early Qing dynasty (1644-1911) court officials deciphered the half seal as representing a jingli si (registry office).
Decoding the missing characters should reveal significant information regarding the legal system regulating the half seal and the imperial agency administering this system.
JINGLI SIYIN: MING INTERPRETATIONS OF THE HALF SEAL
Upon viewing Wu Daozi's (689-after 755) painting, Sandalwood Image of Deities (Zhantan shenxiang), Wen wrote a colophon to pinpoint the half seal impression on this piece as a jingli siyin.